Applying for VA disability means understanding each step to take in the process. Unfortunately, the process is confusing because it’s full of opportunities for error that will slow down your claim, cause the VA to deny it, or cost you money. This veteran’s benefits guide will help.
Applying for VA disability can be a confusing process. You may find yourself discouraged, confused, and wondering if you’ll ever get compensated for the disability you have due to your military service. This post helps you understand how to apply for VA disability and provides tips for your VA disability claim. You can also use the search at the top of this page to get help with veterans’ disability claims.
Talk to Us About Your Claim:
In this article about tips for applying for VA disability:
- Eligibility for VA disability
- Applying for VA disability tips and tricks
- How long does it take to get a VA disability decision?
- What can I do if I’m not happy with the VA’s decision?
- How our VA disability lawyers can help
Eligibility for VA disability
The first thing you may be wondering is if you’re eligible for VA disability compensation. In other words, how does the VA define who is a veteran?
You are eligible if you were active in the military, naval, or air service and have a mental or physical health condition caused by your time in the service. Veterans who were dishonorably discharged are not eligible for VA disability benefits.
Even if you are eligible, you might not consider your condition to be a disability or perhaps you think that you are too young or too healthy for benefits. Yet, thousands of veterans your age and with your conditions are receiving VA disability benefits. We’ve helped thousands of veterans just like you.
Applying for VA disability tips and tricks
Once you establish that you’re eligible, some tips for applying for VA disability can help you along the way.
Documenting your disability
When applying for VA disability benefits, you’ll need to present medical evidence of a physical or mental health condition. Statements and documents from a private doctor or a VA doctor will be helpful in supporting your claim.
It is important that you are honest and transparent with your doctors about any physical or emotional symptoms and how they impact your functioning at home and work. Explain to your doctor where you were stationed and anything that happened that leads you to believe that your medical condition is related to your military service. Be sure to make your doctor aware of any treatment you had during service and any medication you are on — then and now.
Filing an intent to file for VA disability
If you’re planning to file for VA disability, you can let the VA know by filing an intent to file form. That will create an earlier effective date than the date on your claim (as long as you file your claim within one year). When you file an intent to file, you may be able to get retroactive payments.
“You can file for a disability claim for service connection or a claim for an increase at any time after your discharge from service,” said VA disability lawyer Lori Underwood. “The date you file your claim is likely to become your effective date for a service connection or for an increase. The effective date is the date on which you can calculate any back pay that may be owed to you from your increase or from your service-connected rating.”
Completing your benefits application
When completing the application, think about it from the perspective of someone who has never met you. Make sure the application provides a complete picture of your conditions, including listing all of your physical and emotional symptoms and describing their full impact on your life. Tell the complete story of how your disability came to be, including as many details as you can recall.
If you’ve lost your job or can’t work because of your disability, be sure to say so. Include information about how your income has changed and any financial hardships you and your family now face.
Be sure to review circumstances that require additional forms to be included with your initial filing, and read the section below about gathering and submitting evidence to ensure your claim is complete.
Ensuring that the application is complete and all of the necessary information is provided can help speed up the process.
Gathering and submitting evidence
You want to make sure to include with your application all the evidence you can to support your claim to the VA. This evidence includes your DD-214 and other military records, service treatment records, and any medical evidence or treatment records.
Also, when you submit your application, make sure your contact information is up-to-date with the VA, so they don’t send notices to an old address.
If something significant changes in your life, like you get married or have a baby, be sure to inform the VA. These types of changes can alter your compensation.
Once you file your claim, watch for your rating decision letter. How long it takes depends on the complexity of your claim and your regional VA office’s caseload.
If you disagree with the VA’s rating decision, you can file an appeal.
After you apply for benefits, the VA may ask you to complete a compensation and pension exam. The VA regional office will use the repo C&P exam to establish your VA disability rating, which determines how much compensation you’ll receive.
You should attend the C&P exam if the VA schedules it. Failure to do so can result in your claim’s denial. If you can’t make the exam, you’ll want to reschedule it as soon as possible.
You’ll want to bring all records related to your condition to the C&P exam and prepare for the exam itself.
At the exam, you’ll want to be honest with the medical professional about your symptoms and how they affect your daily life. Be certain the doctor takes the time to listen to your concerns. You also should consider what to say and not to say during a C&P exam.
You can ask for the doctor’s name and a copy of the C&P exam before you leave the office. If the doctor isn’t comfortable providing you with a copy of their findings, you must fill out a Privacy Act Request using VA Form 20-10206. You can submit the form by mail to the Department of Veterans Affairs Evidence Intake Center or take the completed form to your VA regional office.
How long does it take to get a VA disability decision?
It can take the VA anywhere from 90 to 120 days to decide on a claim at the regional office. For some claims, it takes even longer. How long it takes for the VA to consider a claim depends on the workload in the regional office, the complexity of your disabilities, and the completeness of your initial claim.
While how quickly your VA claim will process is somewhat unknown, you can check your claim’s status at any time. Your claim status tells you where in the process described above your VA disability application is. You can check it through your My VA account.
You also can look at the average wait time. The average wait time is about 159.8 days .
Wait times at the VA vary however, from one month to the next. The chart below highlights how VA claim wait times for an initial decision have changed over the past year.
What can I do if I’m not happy with the VA’s decision?
The VA will notify you via mail when it makes its decision about your claim. If you don’t agree with the VA’s decision, you can appeal. You can appeal if your claim is denied or if you think the disability percentage assigned is too low.
You’ll want to appeal as soon as possible after you receive your denial to keep the process moving. You only have a year to appeal the decision.
“If this claim is not appealed, then it will die, and you will have to restart and reopen with a new claim form,” Underwood said.
Read our guide to VA appeals to learn more about navigating the appeals process. You may want to hire a VA-accredited attorney who understands the complexities of appealing and can lead you through the process. They can help you know whether you need to more evidence and, if so, what that information should be. They also can ensure your effective date is accurate, allowing you to receive any back compensation you’re owed. Finally, they know which appeal lane to take in your situation, which makes you most eligible for benefits as quickly as possible.
“They did good by me. I am sick, and the VA was stalling. They got me 100% permanent and total.“
How our VA disability lawyers can help
Woods and Woods has helped thousands of veterans get the VA benefits they deserve. Call us for a free case evaluation to find out how we can help. If we take your case, you only pay if we win.
Talk to Us About Your Claim:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
You’re eligible if you were active in the military, naval, or air service and have a mental or physical health condition due to this service. You must also have a discharge that is characterized as other than dishonorable.
You deserve compensation if your military service resulted in a mental or physical condition. The VA disability process is detailed and can be long, but an accredited VA attorney can help you through every step.
Yes. Although you cannot receive benefits while you are enlisted, you can file a pre-discharge claim through the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program.
VA disability lawyer
Woods and Woods
VA Accreditation Number: 44739